A winter storm approaches as I write this. A storm that includes near constant freezing rain leading to 20 mm of ice accumulation. This morning, the winds picked up. As they wrapped around the house they made an eerie, high-pitched whistling noise that makes it sound colder outside than it actually is. Storm windows shake and draughts add a chill to the the house.
My husband has left with the children and the grandparents to grocery shop but we all joke that they’re picking up supplies should the storm shut down our normal routine and force us indoors. It seems absurd that we should find a looming ice storm comical, but I think that hints at our alarmist news stations and the difficulty in accurately predicting weather. “But I don't predict it. Nobody does, 'cause i-it's just wind. It's wind. It blows all over the place. What the f*! ” (Dave Spritz, played by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film, The Weather Man).
These types of storms are no laughing matter if they hit. I recall the Quebec, New Brunswick and eastern Ontario ice storm of 1998. The photos of it are haunting as trees toppled onto homes and cars. People were stranded in their communities, afraid to leave their home because the weight of the ice made trees and structures unsteady, ready to snap at any moment. Downed electrical wires sparked and some homes were without power for weeks in the winter. It was declared a state of emergency and the Canadian Armed Forces were called in. In the end, a total of 35 fatalities happened as a result of the storm.
In remembrance of that natural disaster, writers have not just discussed the statistics but have been grateful for how the community came together during a time of crisis. Everyone helping where they could.
People remember the darkness and their reliance on candles after sundown. The lack of distraction from the television and the natural conversations the ensued. In a recent article, Julie Scott wrote about her experiences in Montreal during the ice storm when her family was without electricity and relied upon candles after sundown. The situation at the time was far from idyllic but was also a blessing in disguise as it forced family members to spend time with one another. From that experience, she writes about a practice she calls “Candle Hour”. Candle hour involves turning the lights and screens off about an hour before bed and relying upon candles as a light source. It embraces the notion of truly relaxing by reading a book or simply enjoying the flicker of a flame. No screens or beeping or wine. Just time to wind down and cut off the exposure of blue-spectrum light.
Abrupt events in our life have a lasting impact. For some, it inspires change and a learning opportunity. No matter what happens with the storm, I was sure to stock up on candles.
I’ve had quite a few bread fails. There were the several attempts at making my own sourdough starter while pregnant (I couldn’t stomach the smell of it and have been put off this type of bread baking for the foreseeable future), the ones that didn’t rise properly and the ones that just had a bland taste. Making bread is one of the most satisfying baking experiences but it takes a while to find a recipe that works for you. Try this one. This bread is made with just spelt flour (as opposed to 50% spelt flour and 50 % all-purpose flour). I serve it at breakfast or at lunch with butter and jam or I used it as sandwich bread. If it is a day or more old, I toast it. My favourite thing about this recipe is that it has a slight tang. It is more dense than white bread and packs a lot more taste.
Honey Spelt Bread
Makes: 1 loaf
Time: Prep time (20 minutes) + Rising time (2 hours) + Shaping (5 minutes) + Second rise (40 minutes) + Baking time (45 minutes)
Loaf pan: 12 cm (4.5 inches) x 23 cm (9 inches)
¼ cup (60 ml) warm water (bath water temperature)
1 tsp honey
2 tsp active dried yeast
1 ½ cups (375 ml) buttermilk
1/3 cup (115 g) honey
1 tsp sea salt
4 cups spelt flour (460 g)
milk for brushing
1. Combine the water, honey and yeast in a small bowl. Ensure the yeast are not stuck to the side of the bowl. Leave to sit for 10 minutes or until foamy. If foam doesn’t appears after 10 minutes, dump the bowl and start again with a fresh pack.
2. Mix the buttermilk, honey, sea salt and flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and combine using a fork.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. The dough will be firm but slightly sticky. Place in an oiled bowl (I use olive oil) and cover with a clean, damp tea towel. Place it in a warm spot to rise for 2 hours.*
4. Punch the dough down to remove the excess air. Shape the dough into a log making sure that it is not gaping in any places. Place it in a standard greased loaf pan. Score the dough 3 times using a sharp knife. Brush the top of the dough with milk. Allow to rise for 40 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Place the pan in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until it is slightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack. Cool for 15 minutes before slicing. The bread will keep for 2-3 days in a container and can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Slice up the bread for breakfast and serve with salted butter and jam.
* Examples of places for dough to rise: 1.Turn the oven on for 1 minute and then turn it off. Place the bowl in the oven, 2. On top of a radiator or refrigerator. 3. In a non-drafty window with the sun pouring in.
Adapted from My Family Table by Eleanor Ozich.
Details about the 1998 Ice Storm can be found at the CBC.